Chapter One

Disclaimer: "Doc Martin' is the property of Buffalo Pictures.

Martin finished writing up the last of the day's patient notes and dropped them on Pauline's desk for filing tomorrow. It had been a satisfactory day; there had been a minimum of chit chat and no one had been overly annoying. Best of all, he had finished a little early with the whole evening ahead of him, time to go home then. He placed the latest edition of the British Medical Journal inside his brief case, locked the back door of the Surgery on his way out and made his way to his Lexus. The drive home took barely five minutes. Soon he was pulling into the circular driveway where he parked directly behind the small navy blue sedan.

For a moment he surveyed his homestead, finding it most pleasing. The lawn was neatly manicured, the flowerbeds newly weeded. Evidently the gardener had made his monthly visit today. The four bedroom stone cottage took on a golden hue in the dwindling sunlight, light bounced off the bay window that framed the master bedroom. Martin emitted a contented sigh and walked round through the garden to the back door. The wild roses were in bloom; no doubt she would have picked some, sorting them artfully in a vase on their dinner table.

He entered the kitchen through the unlocked back door, two stainless steel pots boiled away on the cooker. He opened both lids, approving of the steaming broccoli and new potatoes; optimal nutritional value. In the sink three shiny mackerel fillets lay marinating in a low calorie, low sodium orange ginger sauce. He turned towards the oak table already set with silverware and china in readiness for their dinner. As he expected, wild roses were beautifully displayed to maximum advantage in a cobalt blue glass vase. A pepper mill sat on the table, missing its mate. As per his request salt shakers were banned.

He strolled into the lounge. The floor and furniture were immaculate, not a spot of dust. If anyone had told him six months ago that he would be married and would like it, he would have diagnosed them a moron. Suddenly the evening got infinitely better. He heard soft footsteps on the staircase and a joyful voice called down to him.

"Hello Martin. How was your day?" Louisa had reached the bottom stair when he caught her up in his arms and kissed her.

"Satisfactory. Better now." He smiled down at her, releasing her, albeit reluctantly, so she could enter the kitchen to turn down the steaming vegetables. He watched her walk away from him, admiring that slender, graceful figure and glistening chestnut hair. Even in a pair of jeans and t-shirt, Louisa managed to look as though wearing designer clothing.

He started to follow her into the kitchen but something alerted his attention, something was amiss in the lounge. For a moment he could not put his finger on the problem but then realized that the wallpaper had faded. Perhaps it was the setting sun, it tended to darken everything. No, now the crimson leather sofa appeared suddenly lighter. Martin rubbed his eyes; perhaps he should make an appointment to have them checked.

Louisa hummed away in the kitchen as she tossed the mackerel into the pan to sauté the fillets. She turned around to face Martin, showing him her broadest smile. Her pale skin looked opaque; maybe she was anemic again. After dinner he would suggest she make an appointment at the Wadebridge Medical Surgery for a blood test. But now it wasn't just her skin; her blue jeans and red t-shirt were drained of colour. Alarmed, he cast around the room; the roses were no longer pinkish red, they were fading as were the violet walls.

Louisa turned to him, frowning. "What's wrong, Martin? You don't look at all well. Maybe you should sit down?" She motioned to a kitchen chair.

"Umm… yes. Something's gone wrong with my vision." He grabbed for the chair but instead put his hand right through it. His head began to spin. Everything in the room was swirling. Louisa's skin was translucent now. He was frightened; maybe she should call for an ambulance. Then he heard a raucous, menacing laugh. It emanated from Louisa. She was staring at him with contempt.

"Is this fairy tale how you really thought it would be between us? All you imagined our idyllic married life to be? Well then, now you can see just what you missed. You should have run after me, Martin. You should never have let me walk away from you on our Wedding Day. Why did you let me go, Martin?"

His throat was parched; no words would emerge. Louisa was a mere outline now, evaporating along with the contents of the kitchen and the entire house.

Suddenly he awoke, shouting her name. The front and back of his pajama top were soaked with perspiration. His heart thudded. He flung back the mangled sheet and duvet, hauling himself out of bed. Down the staircase he went to the kitchen, switching lights on as he walked. He hated the darkness these days, it suffocated him. Pouring himself a glass of water, he barely needed to glance over to the clock. He could guess the time, somewhere between three and four o'clock. He glanced anyway; two fifty one. He was early tonight.

He padded into the lounge, heaved himself onto the leather sofa and switched on the telly to watch late night infomercials for useless items he would never buy. At least the vapid, breathless voices hawking their wares temporarily drowned out the voices of self-reproach in his head.


Marin awoke abruptly at six thirty when the February sun hit the house. There was no point going back to bed now, he might as well shower, shave and dress. He would be early for Surgery again as had become his habit of late. There was precious little else to fill his time. Louisa had left Port Wenn ten weeks ago. Shortly thereafter his appetite waned and the onset of insomnia was not far behind. Then the nightmares began; it was almost always some variation of the same dream.

As he shaved he studied himself objectively in the mirror. His eyes had sunken into his head; puffy purple patches filled the spaces underneath. His cheekbones jutted out, the roundness that was formerly his jowls had disappeared; his skin was pale and creased.

"Good Heavens, man! Pull yourself together," he shouted at the mirror. If it had been one of his patients standing in front of him he would not have hesitated in his diagnosis; depression. But he reassured himself, it was a functional depression. He could just drag himself through the day but every evening and night filled him with a sinking dread and a soul sucking, endless emptiness. But this was Martin Ellingham, formerly eminent vascular surgeon and now the best bloody GP that North Cornwall had ever seen. He did not succumb to the frailties of the human mind. He was above all of that.

To be continued …